Deserted Wife's Allowance (DWA)


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Index

Part 1: Entitlement

  • Description of scheme
  • Legislation:
  • Administration:

Conditions of Continued Entitlement

  • Summary

Qualifying Conditions in Detail

  • Desertion
  • Divorce
  • Age
  • Means
  • Cohabitation
  • Maintenance

Disqualifications

  • Re-Marriage
  • Desertion
  • Absence from the state
  • Imprisonment
  • Cohabitation

Rate Structure

  • Basic rate

Extra Allowances/Benefits

  • Family Income Supplement.
  • Fuel allowance:
  • After Death Benefits
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Other Benefits available from the relevant Health Service Executive

Overlapping Provisions

Part 2: Procedures Following Award

  • Payment Date
  • Payment Methods
  • Electronic Information Transfer (EIT)
  • Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)
  • Arrears:
  • Duration of Payment:
  • Lost/Stolen Card/Cheque action
  • Payment to an agent.
  • Change of Post Office, Method of Payment or change of address
  • Absence from the State
  • Illness/Hospital Stays
  • Imprisonment
  • Certification of ongoing entitlement
  • Review
  • Suspension/Revocation/Reduction of Payment

Part 3: General Provisions Which Apply

  • Appendix A
  • Requirement to make appropriate efforts to obtain maintenance
  • Husband working and current address known
  • Whereabouts of husband unknown
  • If wife thinks spouse is resident in another country
  • The "Efforts Condition" is regarded as being satisfied:
  • The "Efforts Condition" is regarded as not being satisfied

Retention/Destruction of Files


Part 1: Entitlement

Description of scheme

Deserted Wife's Allowance is a means tested payment made to women under the age of 66 years who have no dependent children, who were deserted by their husband and who do not qualify for Deserted Wife's Benefit. Deserted Wife's Allowance was closed off to new applications with effect from 2 January 1997 when One-Parent Family Payment was introduced.

Former Deserted Wife's Allowance recipients who had been transferred to Lone Parent's Allowance (now One-Parent family Payment) in 1990 and who cease to be eligible for One-Parent Family Payment because they no longer have a dependant child, can re-qualify for Deserted Wife's Allowance, subject to the conditions of that scheme, once they are aged 40 years or over.

Deserted Wife's Allowance was introduced in 1970.

See separate guideline on " One-Parent Family Payment" for more detail.

See also separate guideline on " Deserted Wife's Benefit" for more detail.

Legislation:

The provisions relating to Deserted Wife's Allowance were contained in

  • Sections 152 - 154, Chapter 7 (Part III) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993, as amended, (Repealed by S 19 SW Act 1996) except for those in receipt of Deserted Wife's Benefit on 2 January 1997 - Section 178 Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005.
  • Section 77, Chapter 3 (Part III) of the Social Welfare (Consolidated) Payments Provisions) Regulations 1994, as amended.
Administration:

The scheme is administered by Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance Section, Social Welfare Services Sligo, College Road, Sligo.

Conditions of Continued Entitlement

Summary

A person who qualified for Deserted Wife's Allowance must continue to satisfy the following conditions to retain entitlement to the payment:

  • be over 40 with no qualified child
  • satisfy a means test
  • be inadequately maintained by her husband
  • not be cohabiting with any person
  • continue to make appropriate efforts to obtain financial maintenance from her husband
  • has not resumed living with her husband or re-married 

Qualifying Conditions in Detail

Desertion

A woman is regarded as having been deserted by her husband where

  • her husband left her of his own volition or his conduct resulted in her leaving him i.e. constructive desertion.
  • she is not being financially supported by her husband or if she is being supported, the amount is less than the rate of Deserted Wife's Allowance appropriate to her family size - see below re maintenance
  • she and her husband have lived apart for at least three months.

Where a husband and wife resume living together, desertion is no longer deemed to exist.

Divorce

A person who is divorced from her husband ( being a divorce that is recognised as valid in the State) and has not remarried, continues to be regarded as a deserted wife and qualifies for continued payment of Deserted Wife's Allowance, provided all other qualifying conditions are satisfied for receipt of benefit.

Age

The claimant must be between 40 and under 66 years of age and have no qualified children.

Means

For Deserted Wife's Allowance purposes, means e.g. income from savings, investments, property, employment etc are calculated in accordance with Part 5 of Schedule 3 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 as amended.

See separate guideline on " Means Assessment" for more information on how means are assessed as income.

Cohabitation

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable while a person is cohabiting with someone.

See separate guideline on " Cohabitation".

Maintenance

Men and women are required under Social Welfare legislation to maintain their spouse and children. A husband who fails to maintain his family, must contribute to the cost of any Deserted Wife's Allowance payment made to his wife, under the Liability to Maintain Family provisions effective from November 1990.

See separate guideline on " Liability to Maintain Family".

Where a person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance is not receiving maintenance from her husband or is receiving maintenance which is less than the rate of Deserted Wife's Allowance appropriate to her, she is required to make, and continue to make, efforts to obtain maintenance from her husband.

In determining whether a wife is being adequately maintained by her husband for the purposes of Deserted Wife's Allowance, housing costs may be offset against any maintenance in payment, with the exception of €6.35 a week.

See Appendix A for what constitutes the making of efforts to get maintenance.

Where a person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance is adequately maintained by her husband i.e. receiving maintenance equal to or greater than the rate of Deserted Wife's Allowance appropriate to her, Deserted Wife's Allowance is no longer payable.

Where a person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance is in receipt of a maintenance payment by way of a Family Law Court Order, she is liable to transfer any payments received through the court to the Minister for Social Protection.

See separate guideline on " Liability to Maintain Family".

Disqualifications

Re-Marriage

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable once a person remarries.

Desertion

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable where a husband and wife resume living together.

Absence from the State

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable to a person residing outside the State. A person is however, allowed reasonable absences i.e. up to a maximum of 3 weeks outside the State for the purposes of holidays, attending a funeral etc. and receive payment.

See Part 2 and separate guideline on " Payments" regarding general provisions on Absence from the State

Imprisonment

A person is disqualified from receiving Deserted Wife's Allowance for any period during which she is undergoing penal servitude, imprisonment or detention in legal custody.

Cohabitation

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable while a person is cohabiting with someone.

Rate Structure

Basic rate

Deserted Wife's Allowance is made up of a personal rate which depends on the claimants means.

See separate guideline on " Means Assessment".

Extra Allowances/Benefits

Additional allowances and benefits are payable as follows:

Family Income Supplement.

Where a person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance is working for an employer and on low income, she may be entitled to this supplement in addition to Deserted Wife's Allowance. Certain conditions apply in relation to hours of work, duration of employment. A means test also applies.

See separate guideline on " Family Income Supplement" for more detail.

Fuel allowance

Payable for a 26 week period from October to April if a person is living alone or with dependent children or other categories of exempted persons. Only one Fuel allowance per household is payable. A person must apply for the allowance.

See separate guideline on " SWI/Fuel Schemes" for more detail.

After Death Benefits

On the death of a Deserted Wife's Allowance recipient, a Bereavement Grant may be payable. Entitlement to this grant is based on social insurance contributions.

Notification of the date should be given to the Department at the earliest possible date.

See separate guideline on Bereavement Grant for further details.

Carer's Allowance

From 27 September 2007, a person who is claiming Deserted Wife's Allowance and who is providing full time care to another person may now apply for Carer's Allowance and retain her Deserted Wife's Allowance payment in full. If she satisfies the conditions for Carer's Allowance it will be awarded at 50% of the personal rate to which she would qualify if she were not in receipt of another social welfare payment. She may also be eligible for Household Benefits and a Free Travel Pass.

See separate guideline on " Carer's Allowance" for more detail

Other Benefits available from the relevant Health Service Executive

A person may also qualify for:

  • Rent or Mortgage Interest Subsidy
  • Exceptional Needs Payments
  • Medical Card

See separate guideline on " SWA/Basic" re Supplementary Welfare Allowance for further details.

Overlapping Provisions

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable in addition to other social welfare payments, except in the following circumstances:

(i) A person in receipt of the maximum rate Deserted Wife's Allowance (who is not also in receipt of Blind Pension) may be paid one of the following payments at half the personal rate provided the conditions for receipt of such payment is satisfied:

  • Illness Benefit (for up to 15 months)
  • Health and Safety Benefit
  • Maternity Benefit
  • Adoptive Benefit
  • Jobseeker's Benefit (for up to 15 months)
  • Injury Benefit
  • Incapacity Supplement (for up to 15 months)

(ii) Where a person is in receipt of a reduced rate Deserted Wife's Allowance, she may also be paid one of the above benefits, provided that the total payment does not exceed the sum of the maximum rate of Deserted Wife's Allowance combined with half the personal rate of benefit concerned.

Note: Where a person was in receipt of Disability Allowance or Incapacity Supplement in addition to Deserted Wife's Allowance on 5 April 1990, they continue to be entitled to such benefit or supplement until the end of the period of incapacity for work.

(iii) Family Income Supplement may be payable to employed persons on low income in addition to Deserted Wife's Allowance. However, the amount of Deserted Wife's Allowance in payment is assessable as means.

(iv) Blind Pension is payable in addition to Deserted Wife's Allowance to age 66, subject to statutory conditions being satisfied. Where a person is in receipt of Blind Pension and Deserted Wife's Allowance the following benefits are not payable:

  • Illness Benefit,
  • Maternity Benefit,
  • Health and Safety Benefit,
  • Adoptive Benefit,
  • Jobseeker's Benefit,
  • Injury Benefit
  • Incapacity Supplement

(v) Disablement Benefit at the personal rate is payable in addition to Deserted Wife's Allowance.

(See separate guideline " Overlapping Payments" for more details)

Part 2: Procedures Following Award

Payment Date

Deserted Wife's Allowance is payable weekly in advance on a Thursday. Where the day from which payment takes effect is a day in the week other than Thursday, the payment takes effect as from the next following Thursday. The same procedure applies where there is a change in the rate of payment.

Payment Methods

There are two methods of payment:

Electronic Information Transfer ( EIT)

Payment may be made by way of a Social Welfare Services card (swipe card) which can be used at a Post Office nominated by a person.

Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT)

Payment made by EFT paid weekly directly into a chosen Bank or Building Society Savings Account.

Arrears

Any arrears of payment due may be included in the normal method of payment or paid by cheque.

See separate guideline on " Payments" for more details.

Duration of Payment

Deserted Wife's Allowance is payable for as long as a person continues to satisfy the qualifying conditions and is not disqualified for any reason or until she reaches 66 years.
At 66 years the customer may qualify for state pension contributory or non-contributory pension.

Note: Once Deserted Wife's Allowance is terminated a person cannot reapply again for this payment.

Lost/Stolen Book/Card/Cheque action

When a Social Welfare Services card or a cheque from the Department is lost or stolen it should be reported to the Department immediately. The Gardai and the Post Office of payment should be also be notified immediately of any such loss or theft.

See separate guideline on " Payments" for more detail.

Payment to an agent.

A person who is unable to use her Social Welfare Services card may have another person nominated to collect payment on her behalf in certain circumstances.

See also separate guideline on " Payments" for fuller detail in relation to appointment of agent.

Change of Address, Post Office, or Method of Payment

The Department should be notified as soon as possible by phone or in writing. See separate guideline on " Payments" for more detail.

Absence from the State

Deserted Wife's Allowance is not payable outside of the State.

A person should notify the Department if leaving the State and payment will be terminated. Payment may be made in certain circumstances for a short period ( up to 3 weeks) during which a person is temporarily outside the State e.g. on holidays etc.

See separate guideline on " Payments" for more detail.

Illness/Hospital Stays

Arrangements may be made for payment where a person is too ill to attend Post Office to cash payment. See separate guideline on " Payments" for more details.

Imprisonment

A person is disqualified from receiving Deserted Wife's Allowance including any increases, for any period during which she is undergoing penal servitude, imprisonment or detention in legal custody.

Certification of ongoing entitlement

Social Welfare legislation puts an onus on a person to notify the Department of any changes in circumstances which may affect entitlement to Deserted Wife's Allowance.

On being notified of an award of Deserted Wife's Allowance, a person is issued with a list of circumstances which could affect her continued entitlement to the payment. The person is requested to advise the Department of any such changes in circumstances.

The following are some circumstances and events which may affect a person's entitlement to Deserted Wife's Allowance:-

  • Change in person's means or income
  • Change of address
  • Change of Post Office/Bank
  • Death of claimant
  • Imprisonment or detention of claimant
  • claimant leaves the State
  • Change in household composition including the birth of an additional child
  • Cohabitation with another person
  • Re-marriage
  • If spouse begins/resumes maintenance payments or if a Court Maintenance Order is enforced
  • If husband and wife resume living together

Failure to notify the Department of any of the above events may result in overpayment of which may be recoverable from a person by way of lump sum repayment or deductions from weekly payment It may equally result in an underpayment of Deserted Wife's Allowance e.g. where earnings/savings have reduced. Effective date of payment of any underpayment of benefit, would normally be decided by reference to legislative and other provisions in relation to late claims.

See at Part 2 of the Widow/er's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension guidelines and separate guideline on Late Claims.

See separate guideline on " Overpayment Recovery" for more detail.

Review

A review is initiated when the Department is notified of any change in circumstances which may affect entitlement. This review may be carried out by way of a visit from a Social Welfare Inspector or by direct correspondence or phone contact with the person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance.

Periodic reviews are also initiated by the Department to confirm that the appropriate payment is being made to the appropriate person and that the qualifying conditions for receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance continue to be fulfilled.

Suspension/Revocation/Reduction of Payment

Where initial enquiries with a person, including written communication, fail to establish the facts as required e.g. current address, current earnings, household composition etc. payment of Deserted Wife's Allowance may be suspended in whole/part until the relevant information has been provided by the person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance.

Where the facts have been established, following a review of the qualifying conditions for payment of Deserted Wife's Allowance, and where a Deciding Officer deems that the qualifying conditions are no longer fulfilled, the person will be so advised in writing. There will be a right of appeal against any such decision.

See also separate guidelines on " Decision-Making" and " Revised decisions".

If an overpayment of Deserted Wife's Allowance has occurred it may be recoverable by the Department. See separate guideline on " Overpayment Recovery" for more detail.

Part 3: General Provisions Which Apply

Appendix A - Deserted Wife's Allowance

Requirement to make appropriate efforts to obtain maintenance

One of the qualifying conditions for entitlement to Deserted Wife's Allowance is that a person makes and continues to make appropriate efforts to obtain maintenance from her husband.

[ Note: Notwithstanding these "efforts" obligations on individuals in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance, the Department may pursue the liable relative (husband ) directly, under the "Liability to Maintain Family" provisions of the Social Welfare Acts, for a maintenance contribution towards the Deserted Wife's Allowance in payment.]

The "efforts to obtain maintenance" obligation on persons in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance, applies as follows:

Husband working and current address known

If the husband is working and the person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance has not succeeded in obtaining maintenance from him, the person should:

  • approach the local District Court Clerk with a view to taking out a maintenance summons
  • provide a copy of the maintenance summons to the Department
    or
  • provide proof that husband and wife are involved in structured mediation which includes negotiations about the financial support of the wife

Whereabouts of husband unknown

If a wife does not know whereabouts of her husband, she may be required to provide evidence that she has tried to trace her husband e.g. proof that she had reported him missing to the Gardai

If wife thinks spouse is resident in another country

Wife may be requested to ask the Department of Social Security (in the case of the UK) to help trace her husband with a view to serving a maintenance summons on him, or to initiate proceedings through the central authority (the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform) designated in the Maintenance Act 1994, which covers reciprocal maintenance action in EU and a number of other countries.

The "Efforts Condition" is regarded as being satisfied:

  • if the separated couple is involved in a structured mediation process which addresses the husband's liability to maintain his wife
  • if husband is working in this country or abroad and the wife approaches the District Court Clerk and requests that a maintenance summons be served on him
  • if the wife takes her husband to court for maintenance but the amount awarded is less than the rate of Deserted Wife's Allowance, or the husband refuses to pay any maintenance or pays at a rate less than the appropriate Deserted Wife's Allowance rate;
  • if the wife cannot trace her husband and has made an effort to do so, for example by reporting him as missing to the Gardai etc.
  • if the husband is in receipt of a Social Welfare payment only, the wife is not required to take any action.
  • if current income of the husband is too low to reasonably expect that any maintenance payment can be made
  • if evidence is available to prove allegations that husband is violent and that there is a consequent risk to the wife in the event of further contact.

The "Efforts Condition" is regarded as not being satisfied

  • if the wife refuses to involve herself in mediation which could address, among other things, financial support from her husband
  • if the wife refuses or fails to make any efforts to trace her husband;
  • if she refuses or fails to take her husband to court for maintenance, or varying order, where the husband has an adequate source of income and his address is known;
  • where inadequate or unreasonable maintenance is in payment, given the circumstances of the husband.

Retention/Destruction of Files

Documents in respect of an application for payment are retained and are not destroyed until the expiration of two complete calendar years after tthe year of death of the claimant. A random sample of 10% of files due to be so destroyed are retained for archival purposes in accordance with the National Archives Act.


Last modified:18/01/2012
 

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